Announcement of Fundraising for the Gift of an Important Delaware Sampler to be Donated to Winterthur Museum in Honor of the Highly Significant Contributions of Dr. Gloria Seaman Allen

Dr. Gloria Seaman Allen was one of the most important scholars and authors in the field of American schoolgirl samplers and needlework. Her career began with her tenure at the DAR Museum in the late 1980s and continued as an independent scholar through seminal and highly important books and exhibitions.

Her books, well-known to needlework researchers, are A Maryland Sampling: Girlhood Embroidery 1738-1860 (2007); Columbia's Daughters: Girlhood Embroidery from the District of Columbia (2012); and Delaware Discoveries: Schoolgirl Samplers from 1750-1850 (2019), co-authored with Cynthia Shank Steinhoff. Dr. Allen was also responsible for two important exhibition catalogues, Family-Record: Genealogical Watercolors and Needlework (1989) and 'Wrought with Careful Hand': Ties of Kinship on Delaware Samplers (2014), co-authored with Dr. Lynne Anderson. Prior to her works on samplers, Dr. Allen wrote several books about quilts.

Dr. Allen was an important member of the Sampler Archive Project and served on its Advisory Board from its inception. The scholarship and great precision of research evidenced by Dr. Allen will be built-upon by curators, collectors and scholars for generations to come. Her passing on November 16, 2019, is a loss to many. 

To honor Dr. Allen, a core group of those who worked closely with her identified an appropriate gift that will be made in her memory. While researching the Delaware sampler book, Dr. Allen became aware of two samplers made under the direction of teacher Eliza Norris and they held particular interest for her. Both stitchers appear in the student records of the Brandywine Manufacturer’s Sunday School, which operated at Eleutherian Mills in Wilmington to provide basic education to younger workers and the children of employees. Though Dr. Allen and her team of researchers could find no evidence that needlework was taught at the school, they did discover that a Miss Norris worked there as a teacher. It is quite possible she met the two girls at the school and taught them needlework skills elsewhere. Quite fortuitously, the outstanding sampler made by Mary Orr in 1831 has become available and it is this sampler that will be gifted to Winterthur Museum, of Wilmington, Delaware, in honor of Dr. Gloria Seaman Allen.

Linda Eaton, John and Marjorie McGraw Director of Collections at Winterthur Museum, states: "Winterthur is honored to have been chosen to add an important and beautiful Delaware sampler to the collection to honor Gloria."    

Co-author of the Delaware sampler book, Cynthia Shank Steinhoff, commented on her work with Dr. Allen over the years, “We were thrilled when we could confirm the family history of a particular sampler maker and learn those details about her life that made us feel as though we knew her and her family. Learning of a school that taught needlework or a previously unknown needlework teacher brought us joy.”

We have all benefited from Dr. Allen's contributions to our field and it is hoped that scholars, collectors and many friends in this field will donate towards the purchase of this fine sampler. Several of her friends and colleagues have already made pledges toward the purchase of the Mary Orr sampler. The price of the sampler is $10,500, and much of that has been raised thus far but donations are still needed.

To add your name to the list of those contributing to the purchase and donation of the Mary Orr sampler in honor of Gloria Allen, please send a check payable to Winterthur Museum to Ms. Linda Eaton, Director of Collections and Senior Curator of Textiles, 5101 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, DE 19735 or, to contribute with credit card payment, follow this link: After selecting a donation amount, set the "Designation" to "Other" and enter "To honor Gloria".



Detail Views of Mary Orr's Sampler: